Herbert Spencer (graphic designer)

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Herbert Spencer
Born 22 June 1924
London, England
Died 11 March 2002
Nationality British
Known for typography, photography

Herbert Spencer (22 June 1924 – 11 March 2002) was a British designer, editor, writer, photographer and teacher. He was born in London.[1][2]

Life and work[edit]

Spencer was an RAF cartographer during the Second World War. He taught typography at the Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1949 to 1955. In 1966 he became a senior research fellow in the print research department of the Royal College of Art; he was a professor of graphic arts there from 1978 until 1985.[3]

In 1949 Spencer founded Typographica, a design and visual arts journal. He was editor of all the thirty-two issues published, in two series of sixteen issues each, from 1949 until it closed in 1967. He also designed and wrote for it. Between 1964 and 1973 Spencer was also editor of The Penrose Annual.[1]

Road signs[edit]

Spencer wished to prove that British road signs were chaotic. He therefore photographed road signs and published the results in two photographic essays in Typographica in 1961. As a result, the Ministry of Transport set up the Worboys Committee in 1963 to devise a consistent system of signage for British road signs.[4]


  • Design in Business Printing, 1952
  • Traces of Man (with photographs by Herbert Spencer), Lund Humphries, London, 1967.
  • The Visible Word (legibility studies at RCA), Royal College of Art, London, first édition in 1968, second edition in 1969.
  • Pioneers of Modern Typography, Lund Humphries, London, 1969.
  • Words, words, words London, Cologne, 1972
  • New Alphabets A to Z (with Colin Forbes). London, NY, 1973
  • The Liberated page London, 1987


  1. ^ a b Rick Poynor (15 March 2002). Herbert Spencer: Influential typographer with an aesthete's eye for avant-garde design. The Guardian. Archived 25 January 2014.
  2. ^ Ken Garland. (2002). Herbert Spencer. Eye 11 (44, Summer 2002). Archived 2 October 2002.
  3. ^ Overview: Herbert Spencer (1924–2002). From A Dictionary of Modern Design, cited at Oxford Index. Accessed January 2014.
  4. ^ Jock Kinneir + Margaret Calvert: Graphic Designers (1917-1994) + (1936-). Design Museum. Archived 8 July 2006.

Further reading[edit]